BUSINESS people and community enthusiasts have been having their say on radical ideas to transform Basingstoke’s Top of The Town area.

As reported in last week’s Gazette, Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council has been working with specialist consultants Urban Initiatives Studio on plans to transform the area – and these were unveiled at a Town Centre Forum meeting last week.

The plans include building a 470-space multi-storey car park in Southern Road and introducing two-way traffic in New Road.

The blueprint for action also includes building new ‘niche retail’ higher end independent shops, cafés, restaurants and businesses, and improving shopping and food proposition on offer in the area.

Alan Stone, who owns Squirrels antique shop, in New Street, said: “The multi-storey car park will be brilliant if they pull it off. This scheme needs to be started and the council needs to do something before the motivation falls to a point where it would be lost.”

David Ayre, director of ACB Architects, in London Street, said: “We like the idea of popping to the shops at lunchtime and being able to pop next door for a drink after work. We would like to see a lot more energy and smaller businesses.”

But some members of Basing-stoke Heritage Society were sceptical that the plans will ever be implemented.

Chairman Ian Williams said: “It is ambitious at the moment. If it works, it works and I am all for it, but where do we start?”

Founder member of the society Hannah Williams added: “The vision they have is very good but it is about making it happen. That’s the problem, and it is not like we haven’t heard it before. There has to be a linking up of council departments to make it happen.”

A short-term option has been put forward to create better transport links to increase footfall in the area.

Hugo Nowell, director at Urban Initiatives Studio, told The Gazette: “Historically, it (Top of The Town) has been neglected and it has been cut up by the ring road, but there is real excitement coming from the council to change things, and from our perspective as consultants, it is very exciting.”

Short-term improvements that the borough council hopes to start this year include improving benches and planters in the area.

Funds of £268,000 have been allocated by the borough council for the improvements, of which £100,000 has come from the High Street Innovation Fund from central Government.

l Do you have a view on how the Top of The Town should be changed? Have your say by writing to The Letters Editor, The Gazette, Pelton Road, Basingstoke, RG21 6YD, email, or comment online at